Saturday, August 15, 2009
dreaming at bread loaf
It's the strangest thing, the way our dreams seem to elongate and surprise us while travel--is it the ghost of writers past? Is it the inspiration of the mountain? Is it the way our brain is attuned exactly to these strange thinkings and images? One night, I dreamed I was working at the independent bookstore in town (where I worked over the holiday season)--C.K. Williams came in (as he came into the campus bookstore while I was there) and needed to order two obscure books, and I kept fouling up the process, nervous; he had an antsy assistant with him (because, you see, Williams is a celebrity, after all), smaller in stature, wearing black, allowing his charge to stand back, aloof and distant.
Last night's dream was less a flight-of-fancy and more grounding: after the publishing panel, I submitted a few poems to an online magazine, then began research on chapbooks. Those grandfather poems I mentioned not so long ago? They've been trailing about, slowly morphing into stronger poems, and there are a dozen, eighteen of them, something like that, which is not quite enough for a chapbook, but nearing. I thought of my other poems--I have a few about family, mostly about parents, but the range is fairly thematically broad--and as Rhodes said, they don't need to be together, not yet anyway, so it doesn't make sense to shove them into Part II of the manuscript just so I can have enough material to submit a manuscript.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, depending on how miserable the reading experience is for these poems, I feel as if I've come to the conclusion of my grandfather poems. I don't feel the drive to write more to fluff out the collection, and I want to follow my impulse.
Last night's dream was fretful and sad, but it gave me a suggestion as to what direction I might go with my work: I dreamed my grandmother, who is nearing end-stage kidney disease, had passed away. I dreamed we were in her old house, the one next door to the one she lives in right now, on that gorgeous lake, the colors no longer that shag orange and lime but all white, white and beige, and my father was speaking to her ghost. I could see her too, but I pretended not to, lest I was thought as insane as he, and it broke my heart to realize she was gone already, that the last time I saw her, it was the end of winter, that time when the snow is nothing but dirty crust-banks, the world is more muddy than anything else, and I was struck by how very lonely she was now that her husband was gone.
She's still here, my grandmother, and the "grandfather poems" actually have two that dance in and out of the collection--one about his quirky proposal (or her interpretation of what she believed was a proposal) and one about my childhood at the lake, which is really a portrait of her, a glimpse really. Those poems wanted to be with the others, but I couldn't justify it. Unless.
Unless this collection acted as a hinge--a dozen, fifteen of the sharper poems about him, a dozen, fifteen about her, a few that bridge the two, and it becomes a portrait on aging, on the love of family, on the body, on memory, on loss. Perhaps the poems I wrote at the end of my grandfather's life weren't it, but only a part of it. Perhaps they were singing out for her accompaniment all along.